Wellington Divided

Posted: Wednesday, November 27, 2002
By: Darren Schroeder

Cover of Wellington Divided Creator(s): Courtney Hopkinson
Publishers: Self Published
From: New Zealand
Price: $6 NZ (Copies still available Jan 2005)

It's very rare these days to find a truly documentary comic. Sure, there are plenty "my life [sucks/is great/is boring/...]" material being done, but comics that actually examine an issue, giving a balanced look at the facts don't come up to often. That makes this book all the more worth a look. The issue that it examines is the proposed highway bypass that is set to slice through the middle of New Zealand's capital city. This has been a contentious plan, as it will require the demolition and shifting of a number of historic buildings and the disappearance of a unique community of student flats, shops, art venues in the central city.

Courtney tries to approach the issues in the best traditions of the documentary maker. He gives us his own background so we know where he is coming from on the issue. He also talks to people on both sides of the debate. Of course he has his own opinion about the bypass, but he always lets you know that it is just an opinion, and that the reader has to decide for themselves.

The comic contains a range of factual information that Courtney presents in a variety of ways. There are amusing characters spouting facts, maps and charts are imaginatively incorporated into the layouts, with some impressive approaches to page design. His illustration style is very appealing to the eye, with the pallet of ink in a range of grey tones so that the book has a very strong pencil sketch look to it.

There is an interesting division apparent in the choices of people Courtney interviewed and how he depicts them. Most of the anti-bypass characters are young, dress casually. The pro bypass are older and dressed conservatively. Courtney points out in the text that the main spokes person for the roading authority was actually younger than he appears in the drawings. I couldn't figure out why this was, Courtney drew lots of young characters, so why did this one have to end up older than he actually looked?

Overall this is an impressive piece of work. It is both entertaining and informative. As a record of an important issue this is a great record of what's going on in New Zealand at the moment. It both entertaining and informative. The issue is common enough that people in other urban centers will find food for thought. The fact that it is beautifully draw piece of comic art is a bonus.

In a Word: Diverting.

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